Saturday, May 11, 2013

May 11: American composer and lyricist Irving Berlin was born on this date in 1888 ...

... he was 101 years old when he died from a heart attack on September 22, 1989.

Born Israel Baline in Tyumen, Russian Empire, Berlin is considered one of the greatest songwriters in history. His 100 plus years saw him rise from a poor Russian shtetl - arriving in the US when he was 5- to seeing his name in lights on Broadway and movie palaces throughout America. He wrote hundreds of songs, many becoming major hits. You could say he was "a legend" before he turned thirty.

Berlin became his own song publisher and in 1921 he built his own Broadway theatre, the Music Box. During his 60-year career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards. Many songs became popular themes and anthems, including "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Easter Parade," "Blue Skies," "Always," "White Christmas," "Happy Holiday," "This is the Army, Mr. Jones," and "There's No Business Like Show Business."

His Broadway musical and 1942 film, This is the Army, with Ronald Reagan, had Kate Smith singing Berlin's "God Bless America" which was first performed in 1938.. His songs have reached the top of the charts 25 times and have been re-recorded countless times by singers including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Diana Ross, Bing Crosby, Rita Reys, Frankie Laine, Johnnie Ray, Al Jolson, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Recommended Amazon links below:
As Thousands Cheer: The Life Of Irving BerlinIrving Berlin In Hollywood (Film Score Anthology)Biography - Irving Berlin: An American Song (A&E DVD Archives)

While some considered him no more than a "Tin Pan Alley" hack, fellow composer George Gershwin called him "the greatest songwriter that has ever lived." Likewise,  composer Jerome Kern said  "Irving Berlin has no place in American music - he is American music."


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